Hyner View Trail Challenge 50K, Hyner, PA  5,5
Elevation Gain: 7500'; High Point: 2100'

April 23, 2016 - Hyner is a long-time favorite of mine - tough climbs, technical trails, beautiful
vistas, and a great after-party. My fifth visit to these Pennsylvania hills in the event's first ten
years would not disappoint. No matter how well you prepare for the challenge you know you
will face, you still have to accept that you are going to have your butt handed to you with a
healthy serving of humble pie. I came prepared to climb with strength and dance with agility
on the long slow climbs on the braided trails that follow streams, but still came away with
sore feet and a renewed respect for this awesome event.

After a week off from running since the last race in New York and a couple of days of reading
and reflection while camped on the Chuck Keiper Trail I rolled in dark early to the race venue
to pick up my bib and generous swag. After mixing with a few acquaintances I relaxed into
my pre-race routine before making my way to the start with little time to spare.

The 0800 start already had temperatures of 50 degrees with a good forecast of mostly cloudy
skies and mild temps. The start here is always enthusiastic as everyone heads down the
steep dirt road, watching feet and trying not to get clipped. Once on the road we crossed the
bridge over a branch of the Susquehanna River before the field thinned out to engage the
following two miles on single-track on a ledge above the river. The start is always a push for
position before you can relax a bit on the trail to find your rhythm before the straight up
fourth-mile climb of Humble Hill to the Hyner View overlook, 1200 feet above. With 300 in the field there
is nothing you can do but to get into queue and abide by the climbing rate of those in front of you. As climbing is one of my strengths I was able to further relax on the climb while
my time for some running room. Once beyond the initial vertical challenge I easily
moved past dozens of huffing and puffing recovering participants.

The intitial 4 miles to the first aid station took me 53 minutes - not too bad given the vertical
challenge to get there. Once the route turned down, a few young, healthy runners easily
rolled past me as I measured my descent with guarded enthusiasm. It was too early to let
the horses run. Those that passed me going down were easily reeled back in on the climbs
that followed. Despite my years I still have young legs, big lungs, and a strong heart. No
one passes me going uphill (and that doesn't come from a place of pride). The half marathon
distance rolled by in two-and-a-half hours (compared to 3:43 for last week's trail half marathon
- obviously Breakneck Point was a tougher go than Hyner. Hitting the half-way point in under
three hours I was comfortable that I could finish the tough back half in another four.

I kept much the same company back and forth through mile 18, gradually pulling back runners
that had started too fast. Energy was good, legs were not laboring, and all systems were a
go until I had to take a nature break to squat in the woods. After that little sidebar exercise
much of the rest of the day was spent in regaining lost position. For awhile I lost attitude
and maybe a little steam in the middle miles as we climbed a long grade up Ritchie Run with countless stream crossings. Catching a couple of people I had been running with by mile 21 we formed a train and pulled others along for the next few miles.

It is always an aim of mine to save enough during the first half of an event to put the pedal
down and change gears in the closing miles to finish stronger than I started. As others in my
entourage faltered with the repeated climbs and tough descents I moved away from the rest
before climbing the infamous SOB, appropriately named for the severity of its climb just four
miles from the finish. From the top of SOB to the finish I finally kicked into racing gear to
match paces with a young woman I called Blondie. She had youth and fitness on me but in
the end, experience would count coup on youth as I made the screaming descent back down to the river along Huff Run before hitting the road back across the bridge toward the finish.

I finally caught up with Dave West who I was ahead of when I had to exit stage left for a
nature break. My increased tempo motivated him to pick up his pace in a chase across the
river, only to be followed by Blondie who was not going to let an old man run her down without
a contest. The three of us crossed the river in no time before turning toward the uphill finish.
Having kept Blondie honest for the final eight miles or so I offered her the lead in to the finish,
but only if she went for it and tried to beat my buddy Dave. The wager worked as she cut
loose to battle Dave to the finish, which pleased me to no end. She earned it, after a bit of a
pep talk, of course.

I was aiming for a time under 7 hours as I had done previously, but finished in about 7:06.
With the pit stop and compromised attitude during the middle miles I gave away too much
time. Not disappointed, however. I wore the wrong shoes for properly engaging such rocky
terrain. Lesson learned. Feet were beat up a bit, but are better the next day with no muscle
soreness. A quick recovery is a better indicator of preparedness than the finish time anyway.
Hanging around for a couple beers I enjoyed seeing Tom Kaplan and meeting his crew, Pat
and Sally Villella, Jeff Calvert, Jenn Fleming, and Phil Hesser, but missed reconnoitering with
friends from northern Virginia and Maryland, somehow! Deciding I would head back to North
Carolina I excused myself from the party before 4 pm, walking back to the car with 25K winner
Matt Lipsey. It was good to catch up with Matt who bagged himself well deserved kudos and
a thousand dollar award. Will have to dovetail something again with him soon.

It was a perfect day for a productive run. Encouraged by my quick recovery, training is
proceeding nicely toward being prepared for the events that really matter this year. I suffered
no falls and sustained no injuries. A conservative, sustained effort with a strong finish is
all that I was aiming for. Mission accomplished... until next weekend's race in Carolina.


video courtesy of Paul Encarnacion